Basque Culinary World Prize

An award for chefs who improve society through gastronomy

A generation of international chefs have now expanded their role in society and redefined their profession by integrating new skills, creativity, innovation and social concerns into their approach. The Basque Culinary World Prize will celebrate this evolution.

This prize celebrates a chef of any nationality who demonstrates how gastronomy can be a powerful force for change: those men or women whose impact can be felt ‘beyond the kitchen.’

It is awarded by the Basque Culinary Center (BCC), a world-leading academic institution in gastronomy, and supported by the Basque Government, through the framework of the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy.


The Basque Culinary World Prize will be awarded to an exceptional chef of any nationality or culinary background who demonstrates – by his or her work – that gastronomy can be a powerful engine for change.

The winner will have improved society in some way through gastronomy. This could be through culinary innovation; sustainability; a commitment to social responsibility; or the economic development of their community; involvement in health or environmental campaigns; the promotion of pioneering cultural projects, or works that benefit society through their positive impact on the food industry.

No members of the BCC, the Jury or the Prize Committee are eligible to win the prize.

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How it works

To be considered for the award, chefs must be nominated by another active professional from the world of gastronomy – for example a fellow chef, food writer or food supplier – or an institution from the gastronomic sector. Those nominating must complete the Nomination Form, giving their full reasons why the chef they have named deserves the prize.

All nominations are first assessed by the Prize Committee:  who check they meet the judging criteria. In 2017, a list of the strongest ten finalists will be then announced and delivered to the Jury to delibarate and choose the person who best represents the values of this prize. The winner is announced at a special event, and awarded in a gala organized in the Basque Country.

Each part of the process is supported by a secretariat of BCC staff that provides the research capacity needed to assist the prize committee and the Jury in their consideration of the nominations.

  • March 2

    The nomination process opens

  • May 19

    The nomination process closes

  • June 13

    Meeting of the Prize Committee. Announcement of the 10 finalists

  • July 17

    Meeting of the Jury: winner announcement

  • December

    The winner receives the prize in a special gala, organized in the Basque Country.

With this prize, we hope to share with the world stories of chefs that are using gastronomy for a better future, we need people to nominate those who are fighting for it in anyway, even in a small scale: we are all part of the revolution.

Massimo Bottura, Member of International Council of the Basque Culinary Center. Head Chef at Osteria Francesana, Italy.


To be considered for the award, chefs will have to be nominated by another active professional from the world of gastronomy - for example a fellow chef, food writer or food supplier, or an institution. Those nominating will have to complete the Nomination Form in which they give their reasons why the chef they have named deserves to be considered.

We are asking for the support of the gastronomic world in the nominations process because we want to use its collective knowledge to unearth candidates from every corner of the globe who may have made an outstanding contribution to gastronomy but have not come to wider public attention. This isn’t a vote: whether a candidate is nominated by one person or one hundred their name will be given equal weight.

The nomination period has ended.

The Basque Culinary World Prize identifies men and women working in gastronomy and striving to excel, the innovative, creative, determined - and sometimes impetuous - trailblazers who are engaged with their community and demonstrate every day how gastronomy can be an engine for transformation.

Joan Roca, Chair of International Council of the Basque Culinary Center. Chef patron of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, Spain

Nominations will be considered by two bodies

Prize committee

A group of academics and specialists in related areas of the prize criteria – for example culinary innovation, health, anthropology and sustainability – will be in charge of selecting the strongest nominations that fit the criteria of the prize to create a list of 10 finalists.

View committee
Elena Arzak is one of the most celebrated female chefs in the world. The daughter of legendary Basque chef Juan Mari, she learned her craft at the famous family restaurant, Arzak, in San Sebastian (which has three-Michelin stars and is one of the top ten restaurants in the world) and now heads up Ametsa at the Halkin in London, which also has one Michelin star. Elena is passionate about constantly evolving her considerable technical skill and experimenting with both flavours and colours (‘I often I say that colour is an extra flavour’) – an approach which has won her international renown.
Dr F. Xavier Medina is an author and social anthropologist who has led research and education in Food and Culture for more than two decades. He is currently a lecturer at the Food Systems, Culture and Society department at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) in Barcelona; and has been president of the European Section of the International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (ICAF Europe) since 2006. Medina was also a member of the team drafting the candidature of the Mediterranean Diet as Intangible Cultural Heritage (2007-2010); the proposal was adopted by UNESCO in November 2010.
Melina Shannon Dipietro In the last year, Melina joined chef René Redzepi of restaurant noma to lead a bold new vision for MAD (“MAD” means food in Danish), an international non-profit that aims to build a cooking community with an appetite for knowledge, a passion for food, and a desire to improve the world. Before landing in Copenhagen, Melina developed mission-driven food-related organizations and businesses in the U.S. She is the co-founder and former executive director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project. She contributed to one of New York City’s most beloved and dynamic public spaces, the High Line, through her work leading their food, restaurant and social enterprise. Melina graduated from Harvard College.
Marta Miguel Castro has a degree in Biology from the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM) and a PhD from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). He is currently working as a Research Associate at the CIAL Institute of Research in Food Science – a joint institute of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the UAM. Castro’s studies focus on food components and how they could be useful for treating or preventing metabolic disorders such as obesity, dyslipidemia, diabetes and hypertension.
Jorge Ruiz Carrascal is a Professor of the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). He conducted part of his research work at the University of Extremadura, the Foulum Research Center (Denmark) and Cornell University (USA). Author of over 100 articles in journals with impact factors, he is the principal researcher of the national network: “INDAGA: Research, Innovation and Development Applied to Gastronomy”.
Joxe Mari Aizega is General Manager of Basque Culinary Center, which integrates the Faculty of Gastronomic Sciences and the Research and Innovation Center on Food and Gastronomy. This center is the first Gastronomic School in Spain with an official Degree in Gastronomy and Culinary Arts. Aizega is founder and pioneer of this center that was created with the support of public institutions, some of the most relevant chefs in the world, private companies and Mondragon University. He holds a degree in Business and Law and is Doctor of Law from the University of the Basque Country. He worked as a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of the Basque Country and at the Faculty of Business in the University of Mondragon. He was also Vice Chancellor of Mondragón University.


The members of the International Council of the Basque Culinary Center show the heights that chefs can reach when they transcend the conventional frontiers of their profession, taking their voice, influence, knowledge and talents beyond the kitchen.

For this reason, they will be responsible for electing the winner of the Basque Culinary World Prize. Each year, leading experts in from related disciplines (reflecting different aspects of the prize) will also be invited as special guests to contribute their own perspectives to the deliberations.

Cuisine is life: we cannot forget that. for that reason, i love seeing that some chefs trace their vocation back to their sense of humanity. i am amazed by this, because it is not something ephemeral, it is the future of cuisine. today’s chefs have set this path wisely.

Michel Bras, of International Council of the Basque Culinary Center, Chef of 3 three-Michelin-starred restaurant Bras, France

The Prize

The Basque Culinary World Prize will award €100,000 to a project chosen by the winner, expressing the transformative power of cuisine.

The prize is endorsed and granted by the Basque Culinary Centre (BCC), a world leading academic institution dedicated to gastronomic education, innovation and research. It is supported by the Basque Government, through the framework of the Euskadi-Basque Country Strategy, a country brand in which all the Basque institutions collaborate and participate. The strategy promotes intrinsic Euskadi values such as hard work and compromise, the capacity to excel, a vocation for transformation and the creation of equal opportunities for men and women.

Through the launch of the prize, Euskadi captures the spirit of its region, and at the same time builds on its reputation as one of the world’s foremost gastronomic destination, which keeps on offering new reasons to visit and enjoy.

As the jury, we believe that through awarding the prize to Leonor we recognise all those people who are working hard today so the city and rural communities can come together though gastronomy. Leonor’s work shows the possibilities that come when chefs acknowledge that biodiversity, ecology, culture, and the traditions of local communities matter. Her work gives voice to the silence and anonymity of indigenous and Afroamerican cultures. We found this inspiring and powerful

Joan Roca Chair of the Prize Jury

Winner 2017

Leonor Espinosa

Leonor Espinosa is known for taking great pride in the cuisine of her country, as well as nurturing and promoting the value of its biodiversity. Through the Funleo foundation, Espinosa revives the ancestral knowledge and know-how of mainly indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples. She supports rural development based on food sovereignty, and promotes routes to market for small producers as well as spaces for education, nutrition, enterprise and tourism in ethnic locations. In addition to gathering support for opening a Comprehensive Gastronomy Centre in Chocó as an alternative framework to drug trafficking, she urges Colombia to raise awareness of its culinary richness, and wants its communities to take responsibility for transforming their biological, cultural and intangible heritage into tools for socio-economic development.


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We believe the world of gastronomy can have a positive influence on society when chefs take on the responsibilities that come with having a public voice. our aim is to uncover examples of great work that has made a difference from chefs around the world, whether they are known or unknown.

Joxe Mari Aizega, Head of the Basque Culinary Center.

Basque Culinary Center

A pioneering academic institution for a pioneering prize.

The Basque Culinary Center (BCC) is a pioneering academic institution created in 2011 with the support of Mondragon University and seven top Basque chefs, including Juan Mari Arzak, Pedro Subijana and Andoni Luis Aduriz.

Located in one of the world’s major gastronomic capitals, the institution is in a unique position to bring together a wealth of talent. Courses encompass higher education, research, innovation and the promotion of gastronomy and nutrition. The BCC’s mission is to become the benchmark in their field, as well as to highlight the impact the modern chef can have on their profession, culture, community and the wider world.

From the very start, it has been backed by some of the most influential chefs in the world who now form our International Council chaired by Joan Roca (Spain); with Gastón Acurio (Peru), Ferran Adrià (Spain), Alex Atala (Brazil), Dan Barber (US), Heston Blumenthal (UK), Massimo Bottura (Italy), Michel Bras (France), Dominique Crenn (US), Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe (Vzla), Yoshiro Narisawa (Japan), Enrique Olvera (Mexico) and René Redzepi (Denmark).

The BCC shares with them the sense of vocation that links cuisine to other disciplines, and that same desire to make a positive contribution to the community through concrete actions.

Euskadi Basque Country

Euskadi is a land privileged by its gastronomic resources. Uniquely, it has been the cradle of many important movements and figures in the history of contemporary global cuisine. Although firmly rooted in its traditions, Basque cuisine has always known how to mix tradition with innovation. It has established trends and become a source of inspiration for other global models of haute cuisine.

The pleasure of eating and drinking well, respect for local produce, and a love of creativity, innovation and collaboration are the remarkable characteristics of the Basque people that set them apart. It is no coincidence that this is the region with the most Michelin stars per capita, and with some of the most interesting and influential culinary offerings.

With an exceptional combination of sea, mountains and fertile valleys – beautiful spaces ideally suited to gatherings – and the people’s untiring devotion to culinary excellence, Euskadi is an ideal place to host such an innovative award. Through the Basque Culinary World Prize these values: quality, excellence and a ‘talent for transformation’ – will be celebrated.

  • About the person nominating

  • About the nominee

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  • Please note that chefs cannot nominate themselves. They need to be nominated by another chef, a profesional or institution part of the gastronomic community. Nomination period closes in may. Finalist will be announced in June and the winner in July.


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